Bring­ing but­ter­flies back

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - WILD LIFE -

How­ever, if you think that our gar­dens and fields are look­ing a lit­tle emp­tier than they once were, you’d be right.

In March this year, the Cen­tre for Ecol­ogy and Hy­drol­ogy (CEH) an­nounced that 2016 was the fourth worst year for but­ter­flies since record­ing started in 1976.

Some species, such as griz­zled skip­per and white let­ter hairstreak, had their worst year ever.

CEH re­ports that over­all, 76% of all but­ter­flies found in the UK have de­clined in abun­dance, oc­cur­rence, or both.

This is a dis­turb­ing statis­tic; but it also points to wor­ry­ing trends af­fect­ing other wildlife species and our wider en­vi­ron­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately, it is very hard to pin­point the cause of de­cline, espe­cially as the drop off is wide­spread and grad­ual, not trig­gered by a sin­gle event.

Habi­tat de­struc­tion, in­creas­ing at­mo­spheric pol­lu­tion and our chang­ing cli­mate are all con­tribut­ing fac­tors.

Bizarre weather and warm win­ters can also in­crease the in­ci­dence of par­a­sites, which can over­whelm our but­ter­flies and fur­ther their de­cline.

How won­der­ful, there­fore, that some species present on Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) na­ture re­serves have man­aged to in­crease.

We believe this is be­cause of care­ful land man­age­ment, en­sur­ing that plenty of lar­val food plants (those eaten by cater­pil­lars) are avail­able for adult but­ter­flies to lay their eggs on.

At BBOWT we mon­i­tor but­ter­flies every year. They are charis­matic and beau­ti­ful with a spe­cial value of their own; but they are also use­ful as an in­di­ca­tor species re­veal­ing the health of their lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

We have an ‘army’ of more than 50 trained vol­un­teers who, along­side the staff, walk set tran­sect routes each week through­out the sur­vey sea­son (run­ning from April 1 un­til Septem­ber 29). Any but­ter­flies spot­ted up to 2.5 me­tres ei­ther side of the route, as well as in front of the walker, are recorded.

BBOWT is re­spon­si­ble for 40 of these routes based in sev­eral re­serves. The data are col­lected as part of the But­ter­fly Mon­i­tor­ing Scheme, which is used by the govern­ment to track the health of the en­vi­ron­ment across the UK.

Although but­ter­flies can be seen on al­most any of BBOWT’s re­serves, Home­field Wood near Mar­low and Yoes­den near Rad­nage come highly rec­om­mended for beau­ti­ful species this sum­mer.

You could en­cour­age some but­ter­flies into your back gar­den if you have one.

By plant­ing fra­grant flow­ers that bloom from spring un­til the au­tumn (some­times more than one type of plant might be nec­es­sary), you are en­sur­ing that the but­ter­flies will have a re­li­able source of food through­out their flight sea­son.

Al­ter­na­tively, al­low­ing a cor­ner where lar­val food plants such as net­tles and this­tles can grow wild, will also at­tract but­ter­flies into your gar­den.

If you’d like to find out more about but­ter­fly con­ser­va­tion, BBOWT and lo­cal na­ture re­serves see but­ter­fly-con­ser­va­tion.org and www.bbowt.org.uk.

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